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Hot Religion In Nigeria: Christians Attack

Nigeria’s sad summer of religious rampages got worse this week with reports that a group of Christian youth, apparently seeking revenge for earlier attacks, attacked Muslims during Ramadan in Nigeria’s “middle belt” city of Jos, with at least 20 dead. Jos has historically been a religious flashpoint but recently such incidents were mainly confined to Nigeria’s Muslim north. The media doesn’t yet have all the facts but one worrying CNN report quotes a government official who accused Nigerian security forces of causing most of the fatal casualties:

Sectarian violence broke out Monday after Christian youths attacked Muslims trying to worship in a mosque that had been burned in previous clashes, according to Choji Gyang, special adviser to the Plateau state government for religious affairs.

The military was called in to stop the violence and shot into the crowd, Gyang said, adding that most of the deaths were caused by the military forces.

Hard to say; the Christian mob who attacked Muslims — ostensibly as revenge for earlier attacks on Christians — was looking for trouble and it is hard to get objective information about events like this. At Via Meadia we cannot understand how either Christians or Muslims leading mob violence can reconcile their actions with either faith, but then we are not semi-literate 18 year old unemployed youths in a region convulsed by years of ethnic and religious conflict.

With extremist (and theologically marginal) Muslims bombing the country’s UN headquarters and mob violence breaking out in the center and north, it’s clear that hot religion is going to help shape Nigeria’s future — and not in a good way.

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  • WigWag

    “At Via Meadia we cannot understand how either Christians or Muslims leading mob violence can reconcile their actions with either faith…” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Actually it is rather easy to understand. The Koran is chock-full of both positive and negative references to Jews and Christians. Download it and search the words “Jew” and “Christian” to see for yourself.

    Reasonable people like Professor Mead try not to take the negative references out of context. After all while Islamic scripture has some unpleasant things to say about Jews and Christians, Jewish scripture has some rather nasty things to say about the various pagan groups roaming around the Holy Land at the same time as the ancient Israelites.

    I can only assume that Professor Mead is feigning surprise that radical Islamists, who may in fact by highly educated, often use specific Sura in the Koran to justify their violent attacks on Christians or Jews or that he feels under some pressure to express a politically correct point of view.

    Either way, the simple reality is that devout Muslims have plenty of passages from the Koran that they can cite to justify their violent behavior against fellow “People of the Book.”

    One particular passage that is cited by Islamists in Africa to justify their attacks on Christians is this one,

    “The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is but a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no God but He. Praise and glory to Him! (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)” (9:30-31).

    In this passage, Christians are specifically “cursed.” In light of this, I don’t understand why Professor Mead finds it so hard to figure out how some devout Muslims reconcile their attacks on Christians with their faith.

  • Luke Lea

    Man bites dog.

  • Kris

    WigWag, the Koran is the literal word of God, and if the Koran states that the Jews believe Ezra to be the son of God, then by Allah, it is so!


  • WigWag

    By the way, the scriptures of all three Abrahamic faiths contain passages that, when viewed by modern standards, look barbaric to anyone but the most devout followers of those religions.

    There are numerous passages in the Koran that express a vitriolic view of Jews and their religion. It should be no surprise to Professor Mead or anyone else that religious acolytes use these passages to justify acts of violence. One can make a perfectly valid argument that these acts of violence are actually sanctioned by the scripture just as one can make the perfectly valid argument that Professor Mead is making; that they are not.

    The mistake that people make is to accuse Islam of having a violent nature while failing to understand that the same charge can accurately be made about Judaism and Christianity.

    Several passages in the Hebrew Bible call on the Israelites to attack the various pagan peoples with whom they shared Canaan. When the “walls came tumbling down” with Joshua leading the charge, whose walls were they? And what did the Hebrew God call on his followers to do? The answer is simple; he insisted that they eradicate all vestiges of competing religious belief. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible can be understood as a call for Jihad by the Israelites against their pagan neighbors. The only reason this call for barbarity doesn’t resonate with us as strongly as the barbaric and premodern Sura in the Koran is that there aren’t too many pagans around anymore to attack; at least in the Western world. Interestingly, the biblical insistence on the destruction of pagans still lives on in places like India where the Muslim and Hindu worlds collide.

    Lest anyone think that Christians are immune from this instinct for barbarity, there is plenty that is offensive to be found in Christian scripture. The Gospel of Mathew is full of anti-Semitism. The Gospel of John is little more than an anti-Semitic diatribe. As Christians were murdering Jews for two millennia, they weren’t betraying their faith; they were following the dictates of their scripture in a logical if abhorrent manner.

    The idea that Islam is a religion of peace is a lie. A reasonably peaceful interpretation of Islamic scripture can be made, but Professor Mead is simply incorrect if he views this interpretation as more genuine. The same thing is true of Jewish Scripture and Christian scripture; in some scriptural passages both religious traditions implore us to call on the better angels of our nature just as in others, both implore us to act in the most dastardly of ways.

    None of the three Abrahamic faiths is a “religion of peace;” it’s just that Judaism and Christianity have been tempered by modernity and at least so far, Islam hasn’t been.

  • Luke Lea

    Actually, WigWag, you will find much less violence in the New Testament than in the Old. Occasional scattered remarks but nothing systematic. And though the Catholic Church eventually became intolerant of heresy to the point of stamping it out, it never took that attitude towards the Jews. Better to be a Jew than an Albegensian, or a Protestant, til the 17th century. Even the notorious Spanish inquisition was not directed against Jews per se but against conversos, who pretended to be Christian and were therefore heretics.

    Most — in fact almost all — violent anti-Semitism in Europe was driven by economic factors, kings and nobility in debt usually, or else kings and/or nobility in league with Jews against the peasantry, as in the case of the Ukraine and Poland and, yes, also Spain when the Moors were in power. Nobody was innocent before modern times — nobody could be innocent — except poor women and children at the very bottom. Everybody else was both exploiting and being exploited, therefore hating and being hated. Not a good time to be alive.

    I’m probably going to regret this post.

  • Kris

    “Even the notorious Spanish inquisition was not directed against Jews per se but against conversos, who pretended to be Christian and were therefore heretics.”

    Gee, I wonder why those Jews felt a need to pretend to be Christian.

    WigWag’s turn. 🙂

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